We have included Louis Greve because of his
commitment and involvement in air racing during the Golden Age.
Louis William Greve was a prolific inventor, an aviation pioneer, an
industrialist and a civic leader. Louis Greve was also known as Lou, L.W.
and in the aviation arena many called him "Papa Greve" for his
generosity and support.
He was born in Cleveland, Ohio on November 2nd, 1882 to Claus and Clara
Greve. In 1900, he graduated from Cleveland's Central High School.
Two years later, he went to work in his father's
company Cleveland Pneumatic Tool. Claus Greve
noticed early on that his son had a great aptitude for mechanical devices
and design. Combined with a modest and hard working personality, Lou
began his career at Cleveland Pneumatic Tool as an office boy. He
progressed to mechanic and continued to learn the
pneumatic device field from bottom to top.
In 1931, Louis Greve succeeded his father as president of Cleveland
Pneumatic Tool and Cleveland Rock Drill. Other
titles he would hold include; president of the National Air Races, president
of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, director of Central National Bank,
president of the American Drop Forging Institute and advisor to the
Presidential War Advisory Board.
His father fully supported Lou's innovations and product improvements. In
1903, Lou began submitting the first of his 46 patents. His first patent was
awarded in 1904 for his impact tool design, now widely known as the
Some of his other personal patents include; early automotive shock
absorbers (air springs), shock absorbers for aircraft (3), aircraft
struts, aircraft shock absorbing pedestals, amphibian shock absorbers,
aircraft shock absorbing struts(2) and landing wheel mountings for aircraft.
One of Lou's shock absorbers for aircraft was manufactured as the "Aerol
Strut". In 1927, Lou sat on a board attached to the bracing struts of a
taxiing plane to take motion pictures of the action of the first
experimental set of Aerols. This particular landing gear apparatus made
take-offs and landings smoother and safer. Aerols would make
landings for bombers and military aircraft viable on the limited,
unsteady deck space of carriers. The first
take-off of a bomber from a carrier at sea was aerol-equipped.
Aerols would become widely accepted and standardized for all sectors of
aviation. Admiral Byrd's aircraft was outfitted with Aerols for his flight
to the South Pole.
In 1935, the first successful retractable landing gear units were Aerols.
In 1929, Lou was appointed to the position of president of the
National Air Races in Cleveland. He had played a major role in securing "the
races" and he would continue to hold the position
of president through 1939. This enterprise would
become one of the leading aviation events in the world.
Lou firmly believed that women's increased participation in the field of
aeronautics was imperative to aviation's progress and acceptance. In 1929,
Lou established the Cleveland Pneumatic Tool Race/Aerol Trophy Race
for women pilots. This race was a derby that began
in Santa Monica, California and concluded in
Cleveland, Ohio. In 1930, the derby began in Long Beach,
California and finished in Chicago, Illinois. Today it is also known
Women's Air Derby/National Women's Derby and the victor was awarded the
Aerol Trophy, named after Lou's patented shock absorber. At the 1931
races, it was established as a perpetual classic free-for-all closed course
Winners of the Aerol Trophy included; Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie (1929), Gladys
O'Donnell (1930 & 1932), Maude Irving Tait (1931), and Mary "Mae" Haizlip
(1933). In 1934, he also sponsored the $25,000 Louis W. Greve Trophy Race.
The Greve Race was a high-speed closed course event. All airplanes "ships" were required to have
a 550 cubic-inch (or less) engine
displacement. The engine size restriction was implemented to encourage
greater speed and efficiency in the lower-power airplane groups. This
would also encourage other aviation innovations
other than sheer engine size and power.
A victory would be dependant on pilot skill, airplane design and luck.
Winners of the Greve Trophy included; Lee Miles (1934), Harold Neumann
(1935), Michael Detroyat (1936), R.A. Kling (1937), Tony Levier (1938), and
Art Chester (1939).
The aviation arena was a tight knit group of pioneers. Jimmy Doolittle,
Roscoe Turner, Amelia Earhardt, Charles and Anne Lindbergh and many foreign
aviators were some of the guests at the Greve
summer home located at Mentor-on-the-Lake during "The Nationals".
Louis Greve presenting
the Putnam Trophy to Florence Klingensmith for Amelia Earthart
Louis William Greve passed away suddenly on February 2nd, 1942 with his
wife, Elsie, at his side. Telegrams and letters poured in from around
the world to his wife and his three children
Janice Roberts, Fred Greve, and Doris
Wagenlander. Cleveland Pneumatic Tool was in the midst of an $8,000,000
expansion to fill WWII war orders, primarily for landing gear.
The Cleveland News Obituary, on February 3rd 1942, quoted Frederick Crawford
as saying "Mr. Greve was very thorough in detail and far-seeing in his
planning. His was the inspiration, which brought the air races here and kept
Despite his accomplishments, he was completely unassuming". Major John
who also worked closely with Lou in conducting the races said, " Mr. Greve
was one of the most vital factors in the
development of aviation. Cleveland and aviation owe a great deal to Mr.
All individuals involved in the National Air Races were valuable and
significant to the development and advancement of
aviation. The races were a launching pad for
aviation innovation and acceptance. It is important to recognize the
contributions of the companies, civic leaders, organizers, pilots,
designers, sponsors, volunteers, and patrons. Many
pilots lost their lives. They were brave
visionaries with a passion for flight. May they rest in peace and forever be
remembered for their heroisms and contribution.
Note: The Western Reserve Historical Society (Crawford Museum) Library in
Cleveland, Ohio holds the National Air Race archives, donated by
managing director, Mr. Clifford Henderson.
Researched and written by Elizabeth (Betsy) Kidd
E-mail - [email protected] -